Why CEOs Fail and Why You Cannot Wait For The Right CEO To Save You

By Patrick Thean

dateMon, Mar 11, 2019 @ 07:00 PM

In 1999, CEO consultant Ram Charan and Fortune's Geoffrey Colvin wrote an article on why CEOs fail. They studied over 40 failed CEOs and concluded that they failed not due to a lack of strategy, but rather, the fatal flaw was poor execution.

This article haunted me. I sold my Inc500 company the year before because I thought that a professional, tried and true CEO would be able to take us further than myself. But, I was noticing the missteps in execution, and they were getting worse. Even though the combined company seemed to have a very compelling strategy, they were falling to execute. They were getting in their own way, and the opportunity costs were adding up. 

In a Fortune 500 company, if a CEO fails to execute, they have time and resources to change out the head and give it another go. Even Apple had multiple failed CEOs, driving their stock price to an all time low before they brought back Steve Jobs to be their i-CEO. In those days, "i" stood for "interim"! But in mid market companies, we do not have the luxury of multiple failures before getting it right. While execution mistakes may doom a CEO in a Fortune 500 company, in a mid market company, it might doom the company as well!

You don't need a new fancy CEO to fix your execution problems. You need to be willing to roll up your sleeves and do some hard work. You need to:

• Slow down and think, and figure out what you really need to do (then forget the rest).

• Build a simple execution plan with very clear goals and the milestones to get there.

• Do the work every day and week. Be vigilant and observe what is working and what's not working. Who's working and who's not working! Then be courageous enough to make the right adjustments. The adjustments needed could be new team members, or it could be an adjustment in your execution steps.

I have been thinking and working on this question since Ram Charan's article was published. My new book, Rhythm, is a compilation of ideas, patterns, and practices that have helped our clients execute well and succeed. As I wrote Rhythm, I was focused on answering the following questions:

• How do we execute better and restore joy and confidence in order for our companies to succeed? 

• How do I help others enjoy their journey as we help their companies succeed? 

• How do I enjoy my own journey as an entrepreneur more?


Rhythm Systems Patrick Thean's Summary from his Rhythm book


Patrick Thean


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